Bob Good Trails in Battle for His Virginia Seat, but Primary Remains Too Close to Call - The World News

Bob Good Trails in Battle for His Virginia Seat, but Primary Remains Too Close to Call

Representative Bob Good, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, was fighting on Thursday to hang onto his seat, as his primary race against a challenger backed by former President Donald J. Trump remained too close to call.

The contest between two election deniers, which has turned ugly and personal, was potentially headed for a recount that could drag on for weeks. With more than 95 percent of the votes counted, John J. McGuire, a little-known state senator and former Navy SEAL who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, had a lead over Mr. Good of a little more than 300 votes, according to The Associated Press. Mail-in votes were still being counted, and Mr. Good said he could still prevail.

But that did not stop Mr. McGuire, who has pitched himself to voters as the true Trump loyalist and criticized Mr. Good for his vote to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, from declaring victory on Tuesday night before the final votes were counted.

Virginia does not have a requirement for an automatic recount, but if the winner is ahead by less than 1 percent, either candidate can request one. It was a rare instance in which both candidates in a photo-finish race had promoted the lie that Mr. Trump won the 2020 presidential election, raising questions about whether either would accept an adverse outcome in his own contest.

“The law provides a process for evaluating the accuracy of all the vote totals from Election Day to ensure everyone can have full confidence in the certified results,” Mr. Good wrote on social media. “Provisional ballots and mail-in ballots are also still to be counted. We are asking for full transparency from the officials involved and patience from the people of the 5th District over the coming weeks as the certification of results is completed.”

The state of play raised resting heart rates among Mr. McGuire’s powerful supporters, who had been projecting confidence about a decisive, double-digit victory, and assuring Mr. Trump of such an outcome. Mr. Trump’s endorsement proved powerful enough to propel the little-known state senator to a virtual tie with the well-known incumbent. But it also demonstrated the limits of the former president’s power, as his support failed to clinch a decisive win for Mr. McGuire.

Even if Mr. McGuire eventually emerges as the winner, the results are far from the blowout victory Mr. Trump wanted when he agreed to attach his name to Mr. Good’s challenger. Chris LaCivita, a top adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, had promised this year that “Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him.”

Mr. McCarthy had also urged Mr. Trump to get involved in the race against Mr. Good, people familiar with the endorsement said.

The bitter primary in the south-central section of the state splintered the MAGA movement and highlighted the shifting alliances, personal feuds and chaotic maneuvering that have come to define the Republican Party as much as any ideological or policy position.

Mr. Good’s cardinal sin in Mr. Trump’s eyes was backing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for president last year. He later endorsed the former president and plastered Mr. Trump’s name in letters as big as his own on campaign lawn signs despite a cease-and-desist letter from the Trump campaign asking him to stop. Mr. Trump told voters that Mr. Good would “stab you in the back like he did me” and urged them to vote “against Bob Good.”

Mr. Good was also a top target for Mr. McCarthy, who has been on a revenge tour against him and the seven other Republicans who voted to oust him from the speakership last year. Before voting to remove him as speaker, Mr. Good had tormented Mr. McCarthy regularly in efforts to pull the House agenda further to the right, joining a group of rebels that commandeered the floor and blockaded legislative work. Mr. McCarthy blamed Mr. Good for working to foment opposition to his leadership as far back as 2022.

Allies of Mr. McCarthy, such as the establishment Republican Main Street Partnership, poured money into the race to back Mr. McGuire, even though he bears little resemblance to the kind of center-leaning Republican with which the group typically aligns.

“Tuesday’s results also show a confused G.O.P.,” said David Richards, a professor of political science at the University of Lynchburg in Virginia. “Do they support who Trump likes or do they support someone who spent the last four years demonstrating that he was pretty committed to the far-right agenda? It is not an ideological split, but a split based on a cult of personality.”

There was scant difference on the issues between the two hard-right candidates, both America First isolationists who want to crack down at the southern border, block aid to Ukraine and shrink government spending.

Mr. Trump and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, sided with Mr. McGuire. Mr. Good had the backing of Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump adviser, and Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff and a founder of the Freedom Caucus. Mr. Bannon helped gin up support for Mr. Good from listeners of his “War Room” podcast, who love Mr. Trump but despise Mr. McCarthy.

“Trump is beloved in this district,” Mr. Bannon said. “The only thing that could drag his name down is an association with Kevin McCarthy.”

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